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Diseases and Human Evolution

Ethne Barnes

Publication Year: 2005

Writing in a clear, lively style, Barnes offers general overviews of every variety of disease and their carriers, from insects and worms through rodent vectors to household pets and farm animals. She devotes whole chapters to major infectious diseases such as leprosy, syphilis, smallpox, and influenza. Other chapters concentrate on categories of diseases ("gut bugs," for example, including cholera, typhus, and salmonella). The final chapters cover diseases that have made headlines in recent years, among them mad cow disease, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. xi-xii

We often ignore the invisible world around us, full of microbes and detritus; we go about our business unaware of our constant interaction with it. Most of the time no harm comes from this. But once in a while throughout our lifetimes, we all confront some invisible microbe or substance that challenges our immune systems to the point of causing disease. ...

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1: Introduction

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pp. 1-8

Recent interest in new diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola, and the resurgence of older diseases, such as tuberculosis, has raised important questions about the history of human infectious diseases. How did the various infectious diseases evolve? Where did they originate? What factors have hindered or facilitated diseases? ...

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2: The War between Microbes and Men

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pp. 9-26

The most successful human ancestor in evolutionary terms, Homo erectus, evolved around 1.5 million years ago, as far as we have been able to determine from the fossil record. This rugged-appearing hominid had heavy bony brow ridges, sloping forehead, large teeth, and no chin, but possessed the same basic body form we have today. ...

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3: Early Humans and Their Diseases

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pp. 27-44

Part of the nature of human beings is the urge to wander, passed on in genes from our earliest ancestors. Many of us have the urge to just go somewhere else now and then. If we look closely at other natural urges, we will find that we also like to eat certain things at certain times of the year and avoid some foods most of the time. ...

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4: The Seeds of Change

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pp. 45-65

The final retreat of the massive ice sheets of the pleistocene took place between thirty-two thousand and ten thousand years ago, accompanied by fluctuating changes in the global environment. The subarctic tundra regions contained many of the last big game animals, such as mammoths, mastodons, and woolly rhinoceros. ...

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5: Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Gene Wars

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pp. 67-98

Neolithic farmers planted the seeds of change that altered the way human beings interact with their environment. The delicate balance between all lifeforms within numerous ecosystems became increasingly subject to human intervention. Cultivation of the land disturbed the natural order of plant, insect, and animal interaction. ...

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6: Invitation to a Minute Worm: The Schistosomes

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pp. 99-113

Hundreds of millions of years ago certain tiny, free-living, hermaphroditic flatworms living in water adapted to parasitic life inside water snails. They evolved and diversified along with their snail hosts. The snails came to act as protective incubators for their tiny offspring, allowing the immature worms to divide and multiply within the snail, free from predators. ...

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7: Braving New Worlds: Invisible Enemies of Settlers

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pp. 115-136

The wanderlust of our ancient hunting and foraging ancestors was not lost with the new age of farming, sedentary villages, and developing civilizations. Social unrest, natural disasters such as floods and drought, pressure on marginal environments, and increasing population densities encouraged people to migrate into new lands. ...

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8: Domesticated Animals and Disease

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pp. 137-155

Diseases that can be transmitted to human beings from animals are referred to as zoonoses. Most zoonotic diseases result from accidental infections in human beings, and people cannot pass them to other people. Diseases can be transmitted from animals through either direct or indirect contact with an infected animal. ...

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9: Cows, Mycobacteria, and Tuberculosis

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pp. 157-172

Tuberculosis haunted the industrialized world in epidemic form from the 1600s to the early twentieth century. Its cause was misunderstood, and the disease had the ability to express itself in a wide variety of unrelated symptoms. Together, these factors allowed the disease to spread throughout the world. ...

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10: The Moral Disease: Leprosy

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pp. 173-183

The mention of leprosy frequently evokes frightening images of dreadfully disfigured, dirty beggars with ugly sores, clothed in rags. This image has been handed down to us from the past when individuals afflicted with leprosy or anything resembling leprosy were feared and shunned. ...

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11: The Coming of Civilization

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pp. 185-200

The coming of civilization brought another major paradigm shift to human cultural evolution. Around ten thousand years ago, the stage was set for the development of civilization, as human beings began to cultivate the land and domesticate animals. Five thousand years later, civilization began to stir. ...

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12: Syphilis: The Great Change Artist

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pp. 201-220

Syphilis was the most feared venereal disease throughout the civilized world until the mid-1940s when the introduction of penicillin drastically altered the damaging affects and spread of the disease. Prostitution and loose morals came to be identified with the disease by the mid-nineteenth century when the term syphilis came into common use (Hudson 1958). ...

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13: Memories of Smallpox

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pp. 221-235

The World Health Organization officially declared smallpox eradicated in May 1980. This declaration followed the last known naturally acquired case, identified in Somalia, in east Africa, in October 1977 (Benenson 1981b). WHO closed the book on smallpox through extensive vaccination campaigns and intense epidemiological controls from 1967 to 1977. ...

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14: Pestilence, Plague, and Rats

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pp. 237-249

References to pestilence and plague epidemics appear frequently in historic documents, beginning with the early civilizations of the Old World. Epidemics of various infectious diseases became commonplace throughout Europe, Asia, and north Africa by the Middle Ages. The word pestilence refers to any epidemic contagious disease. ...

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15: Of Lice and Men: Plus Ticks, Mites, and Chiggers

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pp. 251-268

The development of civilization made organized warfare possible. Powerful empires and city-states raised large armies and kept them on the move. The conditions of war often created difficulties in day-to-day living for men on the march. Adequate food supplies, clean water, decent living quarters, and good hygiene often proved difficult to obtain. ...

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16: Marching to a New World Order: European Expansion and the Industrial Revolution

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pp. 269-277

With the dawn of civilization, human history began to change at an ever increasing rate as the forces of greed and power dominated the development of human societies. Throughout the world, the quest for more material wealth and control over others prevailed as the leading forces in human evolution. ...

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17: Easy Route to Fame and Gripe: Cholera, the Salmonella Gang, and Other Prominent Gut Bugs

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pp. 279-298

The early stages of globalization facilitated the spread of various diseases throughout the world. No longer confined to specific regions, many diseases found new havens as they traveled far and wide on board ships that increased in spread and range. They began to appear as if out of nowhere, in places where they had never been before. ...

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18: Transoceanic Hitchhikers: Yellow Fever and Its Dengue Cousin

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pp. 299-311

Yellow fever and dengue fever belong to a large group of viruses called arboviruses carried by blood-sucking mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, and biting midges capable of infecting vertebrates. Over five hundred of these arboviruses, representing several groups of different but closely related viruses, have been recognized around the world (Lederberg et al. 1992). ...

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19: Food for Thought: The Mystery Diseases

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pp. 313-335

You are what you eat—or, more correctly, your body builds on what you feed it. We all need the same basic ingredients from our diets for adequate human functioning and health. This includes sufficient amounts of protein, certain fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Disease and poor nutrition often operate synergistically. ...

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20: The Globalization of Influenza

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pp. 337-353

Influenza, better known as the “flu,” is familiar to most of us. We have grown up with it, and the familiar flu season comes around every year with a new variation of the flu bug. It does not matter whether you had the flu the year before, you can still catch the new flu bug since it differs slightly from the previous year’s version. ...

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21: Diseases of Modern Civilization

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pp. 355-386

The sociocultural revolution triggered by industrialization accelerated during the nineteenth century to evolve into modern civilization during the twentieth century. Those regions around the world that did not industrialize continued to lag behind modernized parts of the world as underdeveloped or developing countries. ...

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22: The New Viral Wars and Sleeping Dragons

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pp. 387-411

The rapidly growing populations of today’s world face many challenging environmental, economic, and geopolitical problems. There are simply too many people pressing for finite land and water resources for survival and economic gain. Human populations are spilling over and settling into one-time wilderness areas. ...

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23: Back to the Future

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pp. 413-428

Human beings have come a long way over the last ten thousand years, moving from hunting and foraging to modern high-tech living. Rapid changes spawned by industrialization and globalization throughout the last century have accelerated exponentially by the twenty-first century. ...

Works Cited

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pp. 429-467


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pp. 469-484

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826330673
E-ISBN-10: 0826330673
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826330666
Print-ISBN-10: 0826330665

Page Count: 496
Publication Year: 2005